False Selves and Spouses

Wall Painting from PompeiiWall Painting from Pompeii

Just who exactly is this person beside me?  Any of us who are, or have been married, may have asked ourselves this question from time to time.  Our spouses have undoubtedly wondered the same thing.

I once heard a standup comic say that men were really silly, because they married a woman thinking she would never change, but that women were even sillier, because they married a man believing he would change. 🙂

Anyone, married or not, can begin to peel away the layers of the false self with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, with contemplative prayer, with a deepening of self-knowledge, and often with the help of a trusted friend, psychologist, or spiritual director.  Those who are married, however, have the additional help inherent in the married state.  The love, trust and intimacy in the relationship provide a perfect environment for taking off the masks,  revealing deep-seated fears and anxieties, and for baring our souls.  Because of the intimacy and trust between the spouses, much of the false self can slip away, many wounds from childhood and youth can be healed, and a new level of inner freedom can be attained.  This is a huge function of marriage, and this is one of the reasons why marriage is a vocation.  There will undoubtedly be periods during the marriage when the stripping away of the false self of one or both of the spouses causes almost unbearable pressure; it may seem as if the marriage cannot be sustained, but Father Thomas Keating, in, “Invitation to Love.  The Way of Christian Contemplation”, helps us to understand what is really happening, and how very important it is:

“Actually, difficulties arise whenever a committed relationship is succeeding.  Love makes you vulnerable.  When you feel loved by God or by another person, you do not have to be self-protective.  Your defenses relax and the dark side of your personality arises, not only into consciousness, but also into your behaviour, to the dismay, perhaps, of your spouse.  Hopefully, your spouse is having similar experiences.  One purpose of the sacrament of marriage is to provide the grace to process each other’s dark side.  In this way, marriage becomes a school of purification and transformation.  When a couple bears with each other’s failures, dark sides, and weaknesses, they minister the love of God to each other.  Human love is the symbol of God’s love in the sacrament of marriage and communicates it to the other person.  The committment to marriage enables one to get through the process of self-knowledge and to reap the benefit of this enlightenment.” 

10 thoughts on “False Selves and Spouses

  1. It was just as if I’d been a teapot boiling away but with a stuck whistler that finally budges and gives way to the furious steam. “Oh, I wish I had a normal husband!!” He blinked not from pain, but from utter stumpedness. He asked at (construction site) work the next day, “Hey, anyone know what a ‘normal’ husband is?” Then they, being equally stumped, all blinked. “I dunno.. what does a normal husband do? Hey, Kurt..” Well, 20 years later, we still don’t know (does anyone here know?), but Mr. Abnormal brought Mrs. Teakettle a daisy when he came in from walking the dog last night–handed it to me as if it were an afterthought, as if it wasn’t exactly the very thing needed. And this morn I’ve arisen to find a stalk of some unopened flower in a vase that looks a lot like the scuffed, stained pitcher we use for iced coffee, and nowI know that it will be ok to put it into the prettiest vase I can find.

    I can’t say how many times I’ve apologized to his dead parents for my not appreciating him properly, and seeking their prayer for help as well as their forgiveness.

    Maybe my question was rather, “Why can’t I have a clone of me?”

    One thing is for certain: Love is a choice, when the feelings abandon one. Only God could’ve set it within its proper element: Lifelong commitment, so that love, being of Love, will come full circle.. from God to us, us to one another and to new others, and all of us back to God.

  2. Pingback: Wild & Free » From Downtown Eden

  3. I have often thought that the significance of the sacraments of baptism and matrimony gets easily lost among all the fuss leading up to the ceremonies. And all that you say, Gabrielle about marriage is so true. It’s often said there are 3 in a marriage, and in loving God the couple then can better love each other,faults and all – and the God reflected in each other, just as Fr Keating says. And when we are comforted by the love of a spouse who knows us well, we get a little glimpse of the Father’s love…just a teeny little glimpse of what is in store.

  4. Coming up on 23 years of marriage I can agree with all you have said and would like to add that in the year and a half that we have been Catholic, having chosen to renew our vows and receive the blessing of God’s Church, we are flourishing the more. Marriage is a vocation because it is another sacrament where spiritual formation happens or can happen. It’s the commitment to one another and to our Lord that has brought us to where we are today and that will take us into whatever tomorrows he gives us. ::thrive! O

  5. Gypsy said: Maybe my question was rather, “Why can’t I have a clone of me?”
    I bet a lot of people can relate to that. If we look at ourselves honestly, I’d wager that many of us deep down think that things would be better if the spouse would be less his/her own person and more like the other. But then we’d never get to the root of the false self issues, would we?

    Ann, sadly, I had a priest tell me once that he really, really disliked performing weddings. He said that all the hooplah inside and outside of the church, and all during the ceremony, made him realize practically every time that the importance of the sacrament was almost totally disregarded, no matter how hard he tried to instil an attitude of reverence in the church. So very, very sad.

    Owen, going on 23 years! The power of love, and faith, and faithfulness! May He bless you and your wife with many more years together!

  6. I’ve been planning to post on this very topic in a few days. My husband and I will be celebrating 25 years together in a couple of weeks and this post is soooo a propos! Thank you Gabrielle!

  7. fmn, ooooh, we will be expecting a very romantic post re your upcoming 25th! That is absolutely amazing and wonderful, especially in this day and age. Many, many congratulations!

    A clone of gypsy? Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!

  8. Congrats to all of the 20 yeras club. An accomplishment to be cherished in the age of Anna Nicole and Paris.

    I will be celebrating 27 years this month also. We are still trying to get around to the trip to Ireland we had planned for our 20th. My wife’s cancer put the kebosh on that deal and my unemployment torpedoed the same trip for the 25th. I think the 30th might be the magic number.

    Seeing oneself reflected in the mirror of a spouse is one of the only ways to see without the distortion of self absorption.

  9. Terry, congratulations are in order for you too. 27 years! I’m sorry, I didn’t know about your wife having had cancer. I hope all is well now, and I do hope you’ll be able to have your 30th in Ireland. It would be an amazing trip, and well-deserved!

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